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Covering the Snowboarding Boom

January 15, 1998|D. JAMES ROMERO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The El Nino media frenzy has planted dreams of a white winter in the minds of many young Americans. The fantasy runs along the lines of a Mountain Dew commercial: colorful snowboards, baggy clothes, radical turns and big airs off the half-pipe.

But there is another snowboarding population--one that doesn't necessarily pierce or tattoo as much, one that isn't always into skateboard tricks in the snow or late-night malt liquor sessions: baby boomers.

Boomers are boarding because many of them believe it's easier on the legs than skiing, and because their children are learning the sport. (It was often boomers, by the way, who opposed sharing hills with the kids when snowboarding first hit the slopes more than a decade ago.)

This fresh market has a publication of its own, Snowboard Life, put out bimonthly by the publishers of several other board sports magazines, Transworld Media of Oceanside. Snowboard Life's focus is on "freeriding"--a genre of snowboarding that involves cruising down mountains and perhaps executing a jump here and there. The magazine also covers pure "carving"--extreme downhill snowboarding that involves high speed and rail-to-rail "S" turns, as well as back-country snowboarding and helicopter-assisted snowboarding, which involves virgin snow and steep terrain. What it doesn't often cover tells the most about both the magazine and its market: freestyle riding--the stuff of soda commercials and ESPN2.

The magazine has also paid much attention to the crossover surfing population, and the January issue features an insightful piece by Hawaiian surfing legend Gerry Lopez, who is also an avid snowboarder, on the similarities between the sports. His surprising verdict is that helicopter-assisted snowboarding--taking a whirly ride up to unridden terrain--is 10 times as challenging as surfing the world's biggest waves. Wiping out "in the surf just gets you wet," Lopez writes. "A bad wipeout on the mountain could be your last."

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Speaking of hot markets, the publishers of Motor Trend plan to tap America's appetite for sport-utility vehicles with a new bimonthly out this month, titled Truck Trend. Initial circulation will be 200,000. Cover price is $3.50. The premier issue feels like Motor Trend, only it features "spy" sketches of yet-to-be-announced truck models rather than Porsches.

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The Surfer's Journal is the thinking surfer's guide to the sport. And if that sounds like an oxymoron, think again. The quarterly, entering its fifth year under the direction of founding publishers Steve and Debbee Pezman, veterans of the surf mag game, gives ample attention to storytelling and articulate journalism. Each issue features an in-depth history of some facet of the sport (the current issue, Volume 6, Number 4, features "The Wallace Froiseth Story" by Malcolm Gault Williams, about the pioneering Hawaiian surfer of the '30s and '40s). Each issue also features a top-notch photo essay. The journal, based in San Clemente, is now printed in an Australian edition. Number 4 lifts an essay from the Australian premiere issue that asks, "Did pro surfing blow its shot at the truly big time, or has cool triumphed over greed?"

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Rolling Stone's annual music awards issue is out. Readers' picks for best albums of the year are: 1) "Be Here Now" by Oasis, 2) "OK Computer" by Radiohead and 3) "The Fat of the Land" by Prodigy. The critics' poll top albums were: 1) "Time Out of Mind" by Bob Dylan, 2) "OK Computer" and 3) "Brighten the Corners" by Pavement. The critics' top singles included: 1) "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by the Verve (now featured in a Nike commercial), 2) "MMMBop" by Hanson and 3) "Block Rockin' Beats" by the Chemical Brothers. The electronic pop revolution resonated, with Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers and DJ Shadow ranking in both polls in such categories as best electronic artist and best DJ.

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The February issue of Details is dedicated to sex--just in time for Valentine's season. Former sex columnist Anka is back with a piece about making passes in the City of Angels--and it's not pretty. If there's any truth to her report, L.A. men are straight-up dogs. The issue also features a poll on flirting in the workplace that has 60% of men and women noticing that others flirt on the job and 45% seeing co-workers getting preferential treatment after flirting with bosses. Only one-third admitted, however, that they flirt at work.

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Party Time magazine, based in the Westlake district of central L.A., is celebrating its one-year anniversary. It is one of a handful of publications dedicated to Southern California's party crew scene. Crews are groups of young, mostly Latino, mostly male party people who compete to throw the most lavish celebrations (which are more like a nightclub experience). Crews have risen in the '90s as an alternative to gangs, and magazines like Party Time give crews recognition by covering their parties and awarding titles such as "crew of the month." The latest issue of Party Time, which is edited by Jose A. Guerra, also warns club-goers about date rape drugs.

* Next week: Book reviews by Times readers.

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